Sark and Smokkr

The following garments are described in the pattern booklet Sark and Smokkr. In the booklet you can find quite a lot of information on sources, but there is not enough room for the level of detail that some of us want, so you will find those details here instead. See Bibliography for the total bibliography. For resellers see Links.
The booklet does not include any reconstruction of a linen smokkr. These were probably, but not self-evidently a type of wrap-around skirt (Hägg 1971; pg 51, also see e.g. picture). In Pskov remains have been found of a linen smokkr (see picture) whose interpretation still is very unclear. It has not been used for any of my reconstructions. I have also been very cautious with using pictures and figurines as sources. I believe that they are to ambiguous to base reconstructions on.

Smooth Sark

difficulty level 1
Sewn according to personal measurements. The width of the gores may be increased if wanted. The length can be adjusted.

The reconstruction is mainly based on the interpretaion made by Inga Hägg based on the finds from Birka (Hägg 1971, sid 22-26). These finds consist of small linen pieces corroded onto the backs of tortoise brooches or on scissors and other tools hanging from the brooches.

Materials: The sark remains found in Birka (Hägg 1971; pgs 14-17) and Haithabu (Hägg 1991; pgs 121-204) are all made of linen. The linen sarks often lack visible dyeing (Hägg 1971; pg13) and are in those cases probably sunbleached (about the same colour as half bleached today) or possibly unbleached. In some cases they are blue and in a few cases in Haithabu (Hägg 1991; pgs 212-214) they are checked, i.e. blue with thin red and white stripes in both directions.

  1. The shape of the neckline is unknown and therefore I have used a simple round shape found on sarks from later periods and on Medieval tunics.
  2. The length of the slit is based on the position of “the fourth brooch” in the graves in Birka (Hägg 1971; pgs 18-19). The fourth brooch is a small disc shaped brooch which seems to have been used to close the neck slit. If tortoise brooches, and thereby a smokkr, are missing in a grave, the fourth brooch can often be found quite far down on the chest, something that Inga Hägg interprets as an infication of a long slit.
  3. The length and width of the sleeves are based on remains of linen on scissors etc. in Birka (Hägg 1971; pgs 20-21) and on the sark in Pskov which had long and narrow sleeves (Zubkova et al. 2007). It is of course quite possible that not all sarks had long sleeves.
  4. The sleeve gussets are based on the constructions of later sarks and contemporary tunics and shirts (Løvlid 2009; pgs 62 och 91, Fentz).
  5. Archaeological evidence for the length of the sark is missing, so it is based on pictures and figurines.
  6. The side gores are also based on the construction of later sarks and contemporary tunics and shirts (Løvlid 2009; pgs 63-65 och 91-94, Hald 1980; pg 39, Hägg 1984 (2); pgs 42-47). An alternative is to make the sark much wider instead.

Gathered Sark from Pskov

difficulty level 3
Sewn according to personal measurements. The width of the gores may be increased if wanted. The length can be adjusted. The difficulty level is caused by the large gathering with requires some meticulousness.

The reconstruction is based on the find in Pskov (Zubkova et al. 2007). There a bundle of fabric was found with a pair of tortoise brooches in the middle. The remains identified as a sark consist of a neckline (see picture) and the remains of the lower parts of the sleeves and the bottom edge of the sark. There are also remains of goffered (a kind of pleating) sarks in Birka (Hägg 1971; pgs 26-30) which may or may not be constructed in the same way. We only have small remains under the tortoise brooches to judge them from (see picture).

Materials: The sark in Pskov was made of fine blue linen with silk applications (Zubkova et al. 2007).

  1. The neckline, with gathering, slit and edging strip with bowknot are totally based on the neckline found in Pskov (Zubkova et al. 2007).
  2. The lower edges of the sleeves too, with 10cm wide silk applications (Zubkova et al. 2007).
  3. And the bottom edge too, with 5cm wide silk applications (Zubkova et al. 2007).
  4. The rest of the sark is missing in the Pskov find, so here I have used the same sources as for the smooth sark. Several alternative reconstructions are possible.

 

Fitted Smokkr from Birka/Haithabu

difficulty level 2
May be sewn with or without gores at the sides, front and back. The outfacing darts can be left out. The length can be adjusted, from below the knees down to reaching to the ground. If at trail is wanted, the pattern needs to be adjusted. Width and length of the torso can be ajdusted if needed to get a really good fitting.

The reconstruction is mainly based on the find of half a back in Haithabu (Hägg 1984 (2); pgs  38-42, also see picture 1, picture 2),  with the support of finds around the tortoise brooches in Birka (Hägg 1971; pgs 51-55, also see picture).

Materials: The smokkr in Haithabu was made of a plain weave in wool where the warp is much more closely woven than the weft (Hägg 1984 (2); pg 38) (most fabrics woven on a warp-weighted loom have that trait). Most of the smokks in Birka were made of diamond twill (Hägg 1971; pgs 51-52), often with a lining in linen (Hägg 1971; pg 54). Almost all straps were made of linen, with a few of wool and then usually the same fabric as for the rest of the smokkr (Hägg 1971; pg 50). There are remains in Birka indicating that smokks of linen also were used to a lesser extent, even if they probably became more common during the 10th century.

  1. The construction of the straps is based on a large amount of loops found in the tortoise brooches in Birka (Hägg 1971; pg 39-48, also see picture) and Norway (Blindheim 1945; pg 157).
  2. The positioning of the straps on the front is based on the same finds.
  3. The positioning of the straps on the back are based on the smokkr in Haithabu (Hägg 1984 (2); pgs  38-42).
  4. In Birka (Hägg 1971; pgs 54-55)  there are no indications that the smokkr should have been open in the front or at the sides of the tortoise brooches. Everything points to a smokkr which is closed around the body.
  5. A cord or a strip of silk along the upper edge can be found in a number of cases in Birka (Hägg 1971; pgs 32-33, also see picture). We don’t know if these continued around the back.
  6. That the back reaches no further up than the front is consistent with both the smokkr in  Haithabu (Hägg 1984 (2); pgs 38-42) and the finds in Birka (Hägg 1971; pgs 50)) where Inga Hägg have been able to establish that behind the remains of the body, directly under the tortoise brooches, there may be linen from a sark and possibly remains of a coat, but never any remains from the smokkr.
  7. The smokkr in Haithabu (Hägg 1984 (2); pgs 38-42) shows signs of having had seams at the back and the side.
  8. The back of the smokkr in Haithabu (Hägg 1984 (2); pgs 38-42) has dart on the right side of the fabric with a cord sewn onto the ridge. I have here taken the liberty of putting these darts on the front too. On the smokkr in Haithabu the cord continues all the way from the top down to below the waist where the fabric is torn off. It is quite possible that it has continued all the way down to the bottom of the smokkr.
  9. We have no archaeological evidence for the length and width including possible gores. Pictures and figurines show that the smokkr possibly was shorter than the sark.

Gathered Smokkr from Køstrup

difficulty level 2
The length can be adjusted, from below the knees down to touching the ground. May also have a train, i.e. be longer at the back and even dragging on the ground. The gathering here is much shorter and thereby simpler than on the sark from Pskov.

The gathered smokkr is mainly based on the find from Køstrup (Thunem 2013, also see picture) of pieces of fabric from the upper front of a smokkr.

Materials: The smokkr in Køstrup vas made of a plain weave in wool where the warp is much more closely woven than the weft (Thunem 2013), just as the smokkr in Haithabu. The straps were made of the same fabric.

  1. The construction and positioning of the straps are based on, except for the find in Køstrup, the same finds in Birka and Haithabu as for the fitted smokkr.
  2. The construction of the gathering between the tortoise brooches is mainly based on the find in Køstrup (Thunem 2013), but completed with the technique used for the neckline in Pskov (Zubkova et al. 2007). It is unclear if the gathers were sewn down below the upper edge or not. In Køstrup the gathers were not fastened to a strip of fabric as in my reconstruction (Thunem 2013). That is a weakness, but I cannot see any other way to get a durable reconstruction. The alternative is to hem the upper edge, gather and leave the gathering thread in place.
  3. The width of the gathering is consistent with the find in Køstrup (Thunem 2013).
  4. The tablet woven braid along the upper edge is based on the find in Køstrup (Thunem 2013). We don’t know if it was fastened in this way because the stitches are missing. There are alternative interpretations (Thunem 2013).
  5. As usual we have no archaeological evidence for length and width, but have to rely on dubious pictures and figurines. This is an alternative reconstruction as compared to the fitted smokkr.

 

 

3 Comments

  1. Pingback: New page about the contents and sources for Sark and Smokkr - Viking Age Clothing

  2. How can I purchase pattern books and are they in English?

    • Hi Elizabeth,
      Yes, they are in English, and you can purchase them from e.g. Jelling Dragon (www.jellingdragon.com).

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